Working Paper 12/290 - abstract

Peer effects in charitable giving: Evidence from the (running) field (PDF, 892kB)

Sarah Smith, Frank Windmeijer and Edmund Wright

There is a widespread belief that peer effects are important in charitable giving, but surprisingly little evidence on how donors respond to their peers. We analyse a unique dataset of donations to online fundraising pages to provide evidence on the direction and magnitude of peer effects – we find that a £10 increase in the mean of past donations increases giving by £3.50, on average. We also explore potential explanations for why peers matter. We find no evidence that donations provide a signal of charity quality, nor any role for fundraising targets. Our preferred explanation is that donors benchmark themselves against the distribution of donations from their peers.